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Teach In : Categories & Labels may not always be bad

Fdaniel's picture

Project Notes

15 - 20 minutes

- Write name of each (good) and (bad)

(Prepare body notes beforehand)

1) Bring in slips of paper and post it notes. (Ari) and double sided tape (Faith)

2) Write a category that you’re comfortable in. It can be one that you’ve given yourself or one that was chosen for you (put it on the back). And one that you’re not comfortable with (put it on the front).  

3) Ask people to write what they’re comfortable with and then we’re going to take those categories and switch them around. We’ll ask people if they’re comfortable with their new given categories  and we’ll ask them to share their thoughts.

4) Ask people if they’re comfortable with their new given labels.

5) Ask people if they’ve ever publicly denounced a label that they’ve been given and ask if they’ve ever felt like they’ve been given a label that doesn’t represent them at all.

6) Now do what you want with this category that we’ve given you. You can crumble it up, display proudly, put it behind you, put it in front of you, whatever.


My group and I put a lot of effort into thinking about what topic to present for our teach in. We wanted to pick an activity that was meaningful, thought provoking but also engaging and entertaining.  We thought that our discussion on labels and categories were geared towards diminishing them and we wanted to give the class another perspective on labels and categories. We got the sense that the class enjoyed our activities and began to start thinking about labels in a new light. They also began to ask more questions and dig deeper into the idea of labels and weigh the pros and cons such as: Do I really want this label because I didn’t choose it myself? Or Even though I don’t necessarily identify with this label has it influenced my life in a positive or negative way? Although I don't identify with this label do I still respect it? All these questions arouse as we went through our teach in. It made me happier that we choose this topic because labels are a very complex topic that is talked about within the feminist community. Do we really want to keep labels? Throughout this course we dealt with many labels (some good and some bad). However, we never really made it clear that it was ok to be comfortable with that label. At the end of our teach in we reiterated the point that it’s ok to be comfortable with your label but its also ok if you want to disassociate your self with labels as well. For example, the label “Jewish” came up in the class a lot during our discussion. Kelly connected with the label because she has had many friends that are Jewish that had a very positive impact in her life. While Emma was Jewish which is why she was comfortable with this label. This one label can be used in so many ways just like many others. One label for one person can be horrid but for the other it can be a comfort. Ultimately we really wanted to delve deeper into labels and explore the pros and cons associated with in but also get the class engaged. We hope that the class enjoyed the conversation ignited by the activity.


shainarobin's picture

Comfort zone

I think that when coming up with the idea to examine labels and their impact on us as individuals, comfort and discomfort were themes that we wanted to play around with. We wanted to take the time to think about what were the labels that we were able to embrace and accept with ease and which ones we felt apprehensive about? One of our goals behind this exercise was to show the duality of labels and how categorization isn't always as clearcut as it may seem. When discussing this idea with one another we felt that this explanation matched the reactions we often felt when exploring themes like identity in our class readings.

As a group we thought that it would be interesting if we asked our classmates to do the same exercise that we did but with a twist. By taking identities that people felt represented them and then switching them around with ones they hadn't necessarily asked for, we were keen to find out how people would react to the sudden change. I was surprised to see how overwhemingly positive the response was to the donning of new labels. Even people who didn't identify at all with the label that they were given were, as Polly said in her comment, for the most part able to treat them with respect. They summarized their feelings and really got to the root of what that label meant for them. I think that as a group it felt good to see that our exercise ran smoothly and that it was worthwhile and productive idea to try as a class.

*My computer wasn't able to upload my images but the two labels I chose to talk about were "White" and "Cisgender".

ari_hall's picture

I dont have my labels to post

I dont have my labels to post because, well i crumpled up and threw away the negative ones. However, I was over joyed with the classes willingness to share their opinions about their labels. Our group thought that because we discussed labels so much throughout the class it would be a great topic to teach about, and especailly emphasize that sometimes the labels or "boxes" we are put in are okay with us, but other times they make us uncomfortable or do not describe us accurately. I once did an activity where i had to write down everything i was mad or stressed out about and then take it, crumple it and throw it in a box, signifiying that i had relieved myself from those things, and was not to let them bother me anymore. When i threw the bad labels off of me i wanted to represent that same activity of releasing the negative labels others have forced upon me. And i am glad that others were able to either do the same, or embrace what they had!

Polly's picture

Labels and respect

Our goal was to explore the different experiences that people can have with the same categories/labels, and I actually ended up learning a lot from what people shared in class. Respect was mentioned quite often when people talked about their new assigned categories. People said that they respected that others had that category/that it existed, and that wasn't something I had previously thought about. It made me realize that I need to be considerate of any category that someone is comfortable in and respect it, even if I disregard it for myself.

Something that we planned on doing but that didn't end up working out was putting our negative categories on our chests and the positive ones on our backs. This would symbolize that people will often place a category on a person just from seeing them, and it is a very visible, quick connection. The categories we are most comfortable with can be hidden and you need to get to know someone before they reveal that to you.

Incidentally, I found this advertisement that shows some common double standard labels given to men vs women: